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At Least 86 Killed In Explosions During Turkish Peace Rally

People surround the area where bodies of victims are covered with flags and banners at the site of an explosion in Ankara, Turkey, Saturday, Oct. 10, 2015. Two bomb explosions apparently targeting a peace rally in Turkey’s capital Ankara on Saturday has killed over a dozen people, a news agency and witnesses said. The explosions occurred minutes apart near Ankara’s train station as people gathered for the rally organized by the country’s public sector workers’ trade union. CREDIT: AP PHOTO/BURHAN OZBILICI
People surround the area where bodies of victims are covered with flags and banners at the site of an explosion in Ankara, Turkey, Saturday, Oct. 10, 2015. Two bomb explosions apparently targeting a peace rally in Turkey’s capital Ankara on Saturday has killed over a dozen people, a news agency and witnesses said. The explosions occurred minutes apart near Ankara’s train station as people gathered for the rally organized by the country’s public sector workers’ trade union. CREDIT: AP PHOTO/BURHAN OZBILICI

At least 86 people have been reported dead and 186 injured after two explosions Saturday at a peace rally in Ankara, the capital of Turkey.

With an influx of refugees, political instability, and economic uncertainty, Turkey has been experiencing a growing unrest in recent months, with growing tensions in the lead up to snap parliamentary elections, scheduled in three weeks.

The explosions were caught on video and posted to social media.

SON DAKIKA

Ankaradayız Emek, Barış ve Demokrasi Mitingindeki patlama anı videosu#dokuz8 / @meliketmbk pic.twitter.com/hmUT1MjGDx

— Avesta (@Avesta0) October 10, 2015

Protestors were gathered to demonstrate against renewed conflict between Turkish forces and Kurdish militants in the southeastern part of the country. It was not immediately clear who was responsible for the attacks, but the Kurdish-Turkish conflict has intensified in recent months. Turkey’s official U.S. embassy website calls the Kurdistan Workers Party, commonly known as the PKK, “a terrorist organization that has killed tens of thousands of innocent people.” The Turkish government’s language seeks to justify using military force against the group.

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“Turkish security operations against the PKK are narrowly targeted. They do not seek to harm Turkish citizens of Kurdish ethnicity. Turkey does not attack ‘the Kurds’ as claimed by various sources. Turkey only targets PKK camps and bases,” the site says.

The White House responded to Saturday’s attacks in a statement, emphasizing the need to address regional security issues.

“The fact that this attack occurred ahead of a planned rally for peace underscores the depravity of those behind it,” National Security Council spokesperson Ned Price said via email. “The United States will continue to stand side-by-side with the Turkish Government and people as together we take on the scourge of terrorism.”

The attack appears to be the most deadly terrorism attack in Turkey’s recent history, the New York Times reported. Another 18 people were in surgery and 28 were in intensive care, officials told local news outlets.

Turkey borders Syria, where an ongoing civil war has forced five million refugees to flee. Last month, the refugee crisis made international headlines when a photo surfaced of a Syrian toddler who had washed up on Turkey’s shore, dead.

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Last spring Turkish elections dealt a blow to the sitting president, whose party lost the majority in the parliament, while a party representing Kurds, who have not historically been included in Turkey’s government, won 80 seats. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been criticized for a media crackdown and moving the country toward a dictatorship.

Erdogan responded to the attacks with a statement on the government’s website. “I call on everyone to act responsibly and carefully and to stand against terrorism,” he said. “Our state, with all its bodies, is working to shed light on this incident. I believe perpetrators will be identified and brought to justice soon.”

Update:

Turkish news site RTUK reported Saturday that the prime minister has issued a temporary ban on reporting on the explosions.